Updates from March, 2013

  • Crime News From Inside Seattle PD

    1:33 pm on March 27, 2013 | 1 Comment Permalink
    Tags: Blogs, Jonah Spangenthal-Lee, Journalism, Journalism Innovation

    Crime in the Emerald City may not pay, but it is forging a career for local reporter/blogger Jonah Spangenthal-Lee. The lifelong Seattle resident found his niche in journalism almost by accident, while writing for the alt-weekly paper The Stranger as an intern from North Seattle Community College.

    “I still don’t really know how I ended up on the crime beat,” Spangenthal-Lee said in an e-mail interview. “The first few stories I wrote at The Stranger all happened to be cop or crime-related, and I started making contacts and figuring out the cops/court system through trial and error.”

    The 4-month internship led to a job covering the city’s crime beat, and for years he gained valuable experience and established many solid contacts reporting at crime scenes.  After parting ways with The Stranger, he wanted to continue crime reporting, but knew it would be difficult landing a position in a newsroom.

    Soon after, with “a ton of help” from Justin Carder, publisher of CapitolHillSeattle.com and Central District News founder Scott Durham, Spangenthal-Lee’s site Seattlecrime.com was born. “A few other blogger/reporter friends also pitched in from time to time with posts on my site,” Spangenthal-Lee said.

    Creating his own news site did have advantages.

    “The editorial freedom that comes from running a mostly one-man show was fantastic, and operating without any sort of financial safety net, attorneys–or even petty cash to pay for things like court documents–really forced me to be resourceful about how I obtained and used information.”

    Spangenthal-Lee offered stories other media outlets didn’t have, by spending more time reading through police reports and by breaking stories sooner than the competition.

    “Being a small ‘independent’ operation also meant I could be a lot more agile with how and when I published (breaking news on Twitter from a crime scene hours before I’d ever get back to a computer to churn out a traditional inverted-pyramid story, for instance) but working 18 hour days and always having one ear tuned to the police scanner can take its toll.”

    “I worked hard to make sure I had stories or details no one else had and tried to inject a bit of personality into my posts as well,” he said.

    “It helped being able to break some good scoops, and that very few other reporters were combing through police records with the regularity I was, but I think just being present on the site–both in the comments section and over emails with readers–and putting out regular updates around the clock helped give readers a reason to keep coming back.”

    Seattlecrime.com developed a small but dedicated fan base as the “go-to-place” for local crime news. Connecting with neighborhood blogs that linked to his coverage and a Seattlecrime.com iPhone app all helped his site garner more local and national media attention.

    “Crime, however, does not pay,” he concluded. “Especially if you’re blogging about it.”

    He explained, “I tried to keep myself out of the advertising side of things because I didn’t want to risk compromising any editorial content. But from what I heard from the folks who tried oh so hard to sell ads for me, nobody wants to sell their product right alongside a story about a murder, car thefts, or other generally grim news.”

    And after dedicating his life to Seattlecrime.com for more than a year, the opportunity arose to work alongside the very folks he covered, the Seattle Police Department.

    For the past year he has worked as a contractor blogging for the SPD Blotter page, a site started in 2008, which informs local residents of the crime news and information happening in the city with updated blogs and twitter feeds, also written by the detectives and officers themselves.

    Spangenthal-Lee seems like a natural fit for the blog, and he’s enjoyed the chance he’s been given.

    “It’s been a great experience working at the SPD so far. I’ve received a tremendous amount of support and freedom from the chiefs, my boss, my unit, and tons of other officers, detectives, sergeants, lieutenants, and captains throughout the department. I’ve been encouraged to keep doing things the way I’ve always done them.”

    Although, he’ll be the first to admit that in the beginning his transition wasn’t exactly smooth sailing among his new colleagues.

    “I’d be lying if I said everyone here was initially excited to have me on board, but I get that I come with some baggage and that cops have a lot of preconceived notions about reporters, much as reporters have a lot of preconceived notions about cops,” he said.

    “I’ve really had a good time here, though it was a risk for them and a risk for me, but I think it’s worked out pretty well so far.”

    Being the one contributing blogger on the Blotter site who isn’t a cop, Spangenthal-Lee provides readers with an alternative point of view on crime news. He hopes that will further build an audience and make the site the best source for crime and police news.

    “I think my background, having not been a cop, I can come at things from a different perspective than some of my co-workers, who’ve been in law enforcement for some time. I get excited to write about incidents, crimes, or police processes that might seem routine or boring to them.”

    His efforts have been written about in The Seattle Times. And he was given an award from the Washington Coalition for Open Government, which praised his philosophy that “If there’s information we can give to anyone, we should give it to everyone.”

    He got a lot of attention for a blog post entitled “Marijwhatnow? A Guide to Legal Marijuana in Seattle.”

    If Jonah Spangenthal-Lee’s story shows other aspiring reporters anything, it’s that finding the right niche for yourself in journalism is possible by not only working hard, but also taking chances.

    His advice:

    “Get well acquainted with Twitter, learn to write quickly, function on 6 hours of sleep, and be equipped to shoot your own photos and video, even if it’s just on your iPhone.  Find something you’re interested in writing about and write about it (assuming it’s something anyone else on the planet is interested in).

    “There are tons of free publishing platforms out there right now, so if you’ve got something to say about a topic write it up, post it, and Facebook and tweet the hell out of it. The more you do it, the more feedback you’ll get, and the better you’ll get. Probably.”

    In essence, Spangenthal-Lee is reporting about the Seattle Police Department from within the institution. Asked what he would say to people who are skeptical that any public agency can report honestly about itself, he answered philosophically:

    “I guess I’d just say that I hope people remain skeptical. We need to continually work to earn and maintain public trust and a healthy dose of skepticism is just more incentive to be as open and accurate with our information as possible. That said, some acknowledgement — when we do the right thing the right way — wouldn’t kill anybody, either.”

    (Patrick Fancher is a freelance writer in Corvallis, Oregon.)

     
  • My Edmonds News lauded in Knight Digital Media Center

    3:03 pm on February 12, 2012 | 0 Comment Permalink
    Tags: My Edmonds News, Teressa Wippel

    Entrepreneurial journalists in the Pacific Northwest continue to draw attention for their innovative ideas.  The News Leadership 3.0 blog at the Knight Digital Media Center features the work of Teresa Wippel in creating and sustaining MyEdmondsNews.com.

    In addition to advertising, the site generates revenues from live internet streaming of local high school football and basketball games.

    Kudos to Wippel for her journalistic passion and dedication.

     
  • Building a News Oasis to end hunger in Puget Sound

    9:14 am on January 12, 2012 | 0 Comment Permalink
    Tags: food deserts, King County Library Services, mobile learning, , USDA

    News Oasis post imageBy now, most people know about the epidemic of hunger. Here in the US, 1 out of 5 kids are going to bed without a solid meal — meaning every student you know is sitting next to someone in class who has to ignore the sound of their empty stomach while trying to concentrate on what the teacher is saying.

    Last year the USDA released a map and downloadable dataset of the 6,501 food deserts in America. These are places marked as “low income” and “low access” where at least a fifth of the population lives at or below the poverty line, and there isn’t a supermarket within a one-mile radius (or within a 10-mile radius in rural areas). There is an estimated 13.5 million people, 6.5 million children, nationwide who have little or no access to stores selling healthful food based on correlation with the 2000 census.

    Local news coverage of the hunger in Puget Sound is not necessarily void, but you don’t see anyone covering the “hunger” beat like they do business, sports, or entertainment. There are interesting pockets, such as Carol Smith’s story for Investigate West, where she profiled our own backyard food desert along South Seattle’s Duwamish River. Smith found that people are resorting to eating out of the river, despite the government warnings of toxic PCBs, heavy metals, and other contaminants that have resulted in a 5 year lower average life expectancy in the area. Due to a partnership with KUOW to do a radio piece, and features in places like Business Insider, her story brought in a significant traffic spike and increase in Twitter followers. However, it’s important to keep in mind that Carol’s work was only made possible by a health journalism fellowship from the California Endowment out of USC Annenberg, and doing the work she did requires a lot of effort and directed intention.

    A vital part of the mission of Journalism that Matters and the Seattle Journalism Commons is to enhance the information needs of our community and help ensure that our important stories are being told. This week our network took a critical first step by holding an all day summit in Issaquah with the aim of creating a “news oasis” that fosters vital information around hunger in Puget sound.

    Valuable local stakeholders were present in four key groups:

    Community organizers, journalists, researchers, and business modelers

    The participants:
    Linda Benson, Vice President, Community Initiatives, Hopelink | Karma Ruder, Director of Community Collaboration, Center for Ethical Leadership | Anne Stadler, Independent Civic & Social Organization Professional, Producer, KING TV (ret.) | James Whitfield, President, Leadership Eastside | Jan La Fond, Convener, Redmond Nourishing Network | Marsha Iverson, King County Library System, Public Relations Specialist | Jo Anderson Cavinta — Diversity program coordinator. Outreach Services. King County Library System | Parker Lindner — Freelance @newmediamatters.com | Ann Zavitkovsky — community enthusiast | Carole Carmichael, Assistant Managing Editor, Seattle Times | Mike Fancher, Executive editor, Seattle Times (ret.), co-founder Seattle Journalism Commons, Journalism That Matters board member | Michelle Ferrier, Associate Professor, Elon University, North Carolina, Journalism That Matters board member. Founder of locallygrownnews.com | Sheetal Agarwal, Doctoral student studying political communication and technology, Research Assistant, Instructor at University of Washington, Department of Communication | Cori Benson, UW Bothell, intern with Nourishing Networks. | Jacob Caggiano, digital strategist and co-founder Seattle Journalism Commons | Rae Levine, Rae Levine Consulting, Co-op consultant. Northwest Cooperative Development | Erin MacDougall, Program Manager Healthy Eating and Active Living, Public Health – Seattle & King County | Dave Ortiz, Cascadia Community College | Peggy Holman, Co-founder, Journalism That Matters, co-founder Seattle Journalism Commons

    Using conversational practices that support productive self-directed co-mingling, many diverse stakeholders with common goals and interested were introduced and immediately started bubbling with ideas and determination. We were sure to make it known who was absent from the room, mainly those affected by hunger, as well as young people, who were identified as potential leaders that are critical for a movement like this to succeed. It was pointed out that there are still silos that exist where community organizations and non-profits who work directly with the hungry are not interacting enough with the “good food movement” — that is supporters of policies aimed in bringing more local organic food to the dinner table.

    Ideas and Examples

    It was clear that the best thing we can do is amplify efforts that are already successful, and use those lessons to spawn new ideas that are more likely to succeed. Some existing models mentioned were:

    The 10 Percent Campaign — Hosted by North Carolina State University, a campaign to encourage farmers, businesses and communities to pledge to spend 10% of their food budgets locally. Their surveys indicate they have 4516 people and 500 businesses who have spent $12,248,980 locally since they began.

    South Whidbey — Strong community networks like The Whidbey Institute, South Whidbey Commons, South Whidbey Tilth, and an upcoming Thriving Communities conference are alive and well in that part of the region.

    The Seattle Happiness Initiative — a project of Sustainable Seattle, inspired by Gross National Happiness index used in Bhutan, and the desire to base economic decisions on not just GDP, but overall well-being. The SHI has been endorsed by The Seattle City Council and is now spreading nationally at happycounts.org.

    New ideas that we could experiment with:

    Mobile News Oasis — We were lucky to have Jo Anderson Cavinta, the Diversity Program coordinator for King County Library Systems attend a session and talk about their new mobile library vans that will deliver free computer access to areas in need. Why not take advantage of the parking lot space at churches and food banks and bring computer access to where people who need them are getting their meals? There could also be a student or community reporter on site that conducts interviews / training / publishing on the spot, as well as nutrition advice, snacking tips etc. At the Greensboro Create or Die 2 Unconference, Journalism that Matters helped incubate the Wake Up Tour, a bio-diesel powered van which provides on the ground mobile media literacy training.

    Food Moving Technology — During the 3rd Random Hacks of Kindness there were teams who set out to make apps that allow establishments who throw out food to put out a call for pickup instead. Three groups started a prototype, Bring the Food, Moving Food (Seattle based), and FoodMovr. I’m hoping there’s potential in jumpstarting this back up again, with the help of organizations like Nourishing Networks who can adopt it in their workflow. It appears Bring the Food is the furthest along on development while the other two haven’t shown much activity since June, but maybe that can change with a few emails 🙂

    SeedBombs — This came from Michelle Ferrier who was visiting us from North Carolina’s research triangle. Her locallygrownnews.com startup has a guerrilla marketing tactic of placing little plantable mud balls with seeds in them that are wrapped with business cards that advertise her “locally grown news” site. The idea of packaging food and leaving it for others to enjoy as a random act of kindness kind of rings a similar tune to the Ben’s Bells project. You could weave a community narrative together by leaving a number code that publishes a tweet or blog post via text message from the random food package recipient.

    No Rooftop Left Behind — I brought up my frustration that so many rooftops are being underutilized as potential gardens or places to install solar panels, and feel there should be a campaign to make use of every naked rooftop in the country.

    Stockbox Outreach — A team of business leaders are trying to tackle the the food desert situation by starting up a chain of “mini mini marts” that serve fresh food out of empty shipping containers. Stockbox Grocers raised over $20,000 on Kickstarter to prototype a popup store in Deldridge, which was open September – November 2011. They are now working to launch a permanent store in Spring 2012, and it would be great to load up and disseminate good information as well as good food.

    Challenges and opportunities

    Some folks in the room wanted to see more work done reporting and addressing underlying policy issues that affect the state of hunger (food prices, tariffs, corporate farm subsidies, etc.) as well as the quality of food available to those in need (healthy, organic, local), and ensuring the support of sustainable farming practices into the future. There are also questions of structural bias when you have large agricultural giants (i.e. The ConAgra Foods Foundation) contributing to programs like Feeding America.

    This led to two key discussions: 1. When you’re hungry, your first order of business is to eat, and that is the priority.   2. Focusing too much on policy and pointy headed experts alienates people and makes them feel less welcome or able to participate in the movement. As noted by James Whitfield of Leadership Eastside, “It’s really really big, and also really really small” and it’s important to focus on the emotional stories while also keeping sight on the broader overlapping issues.

    Another interesting challenge is coming up with strategies to address cultural barriers, not just structural ones. A survey in Redmond was mentioned where police found that teens would rather be arrested for stealing than face the stigma of admitting reliance on social services to get by. Many people who actually qualify for food assistance don’t even use it because of the shame that comes with it. To overcome this, it was suggested that the news oasis we are trying to build is one which transforms the community story (narrative) about food and hunger from consuming & unequal distribution (lack) to the gift exchanges happening in:

    •    the food system

    •    human capacity building initiatives for change that are linked to needed policy changes

    •    the evolution of community interdependence

    Commitments and future development

    The day ended with positive aspirations and each person writing down a single commitment to take back and start working on. On the support side, Nourishing Networks (@nourishnetworks) has launched several community chapters and is enthusiastic about bringing in more entrepreneurs into the scene. On the policy side, Erin MacDougall, was there on behalf of the Healthy Eating and Active Living Program for Seattle & King County, and is quite passionate about taking on the systemic challenges that lead to difficulty accessing good healthy food. Our agreed focus for the news oasis is to connect community and journalists around issues of community need/civic importance to:
    •    Tell stories that matter because they link to felt need in community.
    •    Support community members to tell their own stories (create, disseminate and use their own stories) and link them to the “big” stories about the whole system.
    •    Reach out to professional journalists to ampl

     
  • Mapping Our Voices for Equality

    11:00 am on October 24, 2011 | 0 Comment Permalink
    Tags: Matt Rosenberg, Northwest, , Public Eye,

    Matt Rosenberg of the Public Data Ferret blogs about another example of emerging media in Greater Seattle.

    MOVE — Mapping Our Voices for Equality — is a government-funded effort to enable people to tell their stories about healthy living. It is another example of providing a journalistic service outside the context of traditional journalistic organizations. MOVE helps people tell their own stories, in their own voices.

     
  • Seattle fashion bloggers looking sharp in Pacific Northwest Magazine

    11:27 am on September 4, 2011 | 0 Comment Permalink
    Tags: boraborastyle.blogspot.com, emeraldcloset.com, it'smydarlin'.com, lindsayliving.com, Pacific Northwest Magazine, , , seattlealamode.com, YouLookFab.com

    The Seattle Journalism Commons includes a list of noteworthy local blogs and news sites that are redefining news and information in the Greater Seattle area. Pacific Northwest Magazine highlights a category not yet on the list — fashion bloggers.

    The delightful article by Janet I. Tu, with stylish photos by Ellen M. Banner, says style bloggers are making their mark nationally. “In Seattle, too — not exactly known as fashion central, though it’s probably fairer to say we’re practical even when fashion-conscious — style bloggers are making their presence felt,” the story says.

    In addition to featuring several local bloggers, the article includes a list of style blogs  from around here:

    YouLookFab

    It’s My Darlin’

    Seattle a la Mode

    The Emerald Closet

    Lindsay Living

    Bora Bora Style

    Hey Pretty Thing

    Abiola (pronounce Ah-bee-aw-la), creator of Bora Bora Style, posted a note about the magazine article on her site. She says:

    “It’s jarring and somewhat liberating how much weight style bloggers hold in the world of fashion today, but why shouldn’t we, we’re someone to know! Fashion gives us the good stuff, the wearable art we’re inspired by, but it’s when you take that wearable art and make it your own that it becomes style, and that’s what we all want to see – ‘style on a girl like me'(as in all of us women occupying this earth), hints the birth of bloggers. Gotta love us.”

    Whether you are interested in fashion or not, this magazine piece reveals yet another aspect of Seattle’s vibrant emerging media scene. Let us know these entrepreneurs talk about how they are doing and what others can learn from their endeavors.

    Let us know if you’d like to attend a discussion with these entrepreneurs of how they are doing and what advice they can offer.

     
  • New local partners for Seattle Times

    5:02 pm on July 15, 2011 | 0 Comment Permalink
    Tags: Bob Payne, Capitol Hill Seattle Blog, , Inside Bainbridge, J-Lab, Justin Carder, Kate Bergman, My Everett News, News Partner Network, Next Door Media, Northwest Asian Weekly, Northwest Vietnamese News, , Public Eye Northwest, , Seattle's Child, , West Seattle Blog

    The Seattle Times announced it has added three websites to its News Partner Network. They are Inside Bainbridge, My Everett News and Seattle’s Child. All together, The Times now has forty partners in three categories:

    The Times launched the network in August 2009, with a relatively small grant from J-Lab. At the time there were just a handful of local partners, but they included real online news pioneers such as Tracy Record of the West Seattle Blog, Kate and Cory Bergman of Next Door Media and Justin Carder of the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog.

    The network has grow remarkably. I’m unaware of any newspaper in the country that has done as much as The Times to build such a collaborative network. A list of success stories on The Times’ site includes cross-linking to stories, photo swapping, training on topics such as mobile reporting and video editing. It also mentions two collaborative news projects, one on homeless families and the other on graffiti.

    The Times says it wants to establish and build cooperative relationships with other news sites. If you have questions or suggestions to include in the network, contact Bob Payne – bpayne at seattletimes dot com, Times editor for partnerships and audience engagement.

    The News Partner Network is a prime example of what’s working in the Seattle area news and information ecosystem. Other examples are included in the State of the Media section of the Seattle Journalism Commons. We invite you to submit other examples.

    P.S. In the interest of full disclosure, I worked at The Times for 30 years, but all of this wonderful work happened well after I retired in 2008.

     
  • Building alliances for investigative journalism

    10:49 am on June 2, 2011 | 2 comments Permalink
    Tags: collaborative journalism, Investigate West, investigative reporting, , KUOW, Sandy Rowe, , Shorenstein Center

    Sandy Rowe, former editor of The Oregonian, makes the case for collaboration in local investigative reporting in a new discussion paper for the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. She writes:

    Growing evidence suggests that collaborations and partnerships between new and established news organizations, universities and foundations may be the overlooked key for investigative journalism to thrive at the local and state levels. These partnerships, variously and often loosely organized, can share responsibility for content creation, generate wider distribution of stories and spread the substantial cost of accountability journalism.

    Rowe calls for collaboration among traditional and emerging digital, print and broadcast news organizations, as well as higher education and interested citizens. If she had her own 30 years as an editor to do over again, she says, she would expand her vision beyond her own newsroom.

    “It did not occur to me that I should assume a responsibility broader than my own newsroom for the engagement of the community around questions of public policy integrity and public policy leadership.”

    In addition to laying out specific ideas for action, she offers lessons on motivations, organization, funding, and culture and values. And, she adds this overall vision:

    In a do-over I would work to change established newsroom culture by building alliances for in- depth and investigative reporting with universities, rivals, citizens and, potentially, philanthropists. I would make this work a major part of my own or a managing editor’s job description. I would focus the work much more on the outcomes of our journalism, which is after all what citizens care about. We would measure success through a clear-eyed assessment of the stories done, the distribution they received, the range of tools and platforms used for that, the engagement of citizens with the work and the impact or actions generated by the work. If we did not create value along those criteria, then we would know we were not fulfilling our mission.

    The Seattle area has seen some promising examples of collaborative investigative reporting. Examples include:

    The Times and KUOW teaming up to report on the injuries and disabilities caused combat soldiers carrying to much weight in their packs.

    InvestigateWest and KING 5 TV teaming up on an in-depth look at air safety in the skies over Washington state.

    Rowe’s paper makes a powerful argument for building extensively on these foundations.

     
  • Ben Huh aims his harpoon at big breaking news

    12:48 pm on May 25, 2011 | 3 comments Permalink
    Tags: , future of journalism, Moby Dick Project, online news, , Pulitzer Prize, ,

    Cheezburger Network CEO Ben Huh is advancing some ideas he broached in a recent appearance in Seattle. In a new blog post, Huh addresses the question, “Why are  we still consuming news like it’s 1899?”

    Huh’s overall assessment is blunt: the experience of consuming news sucks.

    Even though it’s been more than 15 years since the Internet became a news destination, journalists and editors are still trapped in the print and TV world of message delivery.

    The traditional methods of news-writing, such as the reverse pyramid, the various “editions” of news pose big limitation on how news is reported and consumed. Unfortunately, internet-based changes such as reverse-chronological blogging of news, inability to archive yesterday’s news, poor commenting quality, live-blogging, and others have made news consumption an even more frustrating experience.

    Huh got some push back when he spoke about these concerns to #NewsNext, a collaboration of the Seattle chapters of the Online News Association (ONA) and Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) on May 16. After proclaiming that it was no longer the job of the journalist to tell people what’s true or not, Jacob Caggiano, who covered the event for the Seattle Journalism Commons, reported there was “the inevitable debate about broccoli versus ice cream.”

    (More …)

     
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